Monday, February 14, 2005

Libby Does Lakeland Prior to I-4 Indigestion

I had to take my friendLibby to the Orlando Airport. Libby had been down from Buffalo for her annual visit. Libby is like a human Swiss Army knife. She cooks! She cleans up! She sews buttons! She fixes toilets! She does loads of laundry! All while she is here vacationing. And she is no ordinary cook. She's a chef with experience from the Southtowns to the Northtowns, local eatery to the country club circuit, special events banquet to the Buffalo Bills training camp. If you need a sauce or something creative out of leftovers, well, she has the Golden Touch. Or the Tanned Touch, anyway, since she absorbs amazing amounts of rays while she's here, and why not, you don't get all that many in Buffalo! Seriously she has a better tan than George Hamilton or everyone in the South of France. Picture her in the kitchen: sandals, shorts, rock concert t-shirt, psychedelically-splashed apron, leather wrist things from exotic locations (bracelets? talismans? We don't know), and funky bandanna around her head. And of course the tan. She has these earthy sayings, too, like, "I'd kill a Cub Scout for a steak." Now before you Cub Scouts run out and obtain restraining orders or canisters of pepper spray, this is just a figure of speech. (I think.) Libby no longer eats steak for health reasons. However I do occasionally fear for the cows. Okay, bad digression when I'm trying to explain Florida's highways. We get these maddening slowdowns. No good reason for them. You have to build them into the travel schedule. Well I tried to explain this to Libby, but in spite of my best efforts we got out of the house with just enough time to reach the airport. Just one teeny slowdown, and we made the airport in about an hour. Off to Buffalo! Brrrr. On the way back things are going smoothly. The 5-year-old is watching Scooby Doo's Greatest Mysteries on the jerry-rigged TV/DVD player in our van. We are approaching the Disney Nebulae of theme parks. Traffic is starting to coagulate -- pretty normal for the Disney area. One fellow in a sportscar is racing madly among three lanes of slowing traffic, zipping in and out of the closing space like a trapped air bubble. By the time he came to a halt he was maybe eight cars further ahead of me, and had risked perhaps a dozen fender benders to achieve his position. That's okay, I'm sure everyone behind him had great brakes and normal blood pressure. The slowdown begins. Three lanes of traffic merging down to two. I blame Walt Disney, his offspring, all the employees and even the cast of cartoon characters. It is THEIR fault I am idling on a sunny Saturday. Inch. Creep. Sit. Watch cars from an on ramp test their suspensions driving over a bumpy medium to get to "our" slowdown two minutes sooner. It is Lent. I let them in. What the heck. It may make my drive two seconds longer, and theirs two seconds shorter. The slowdown stretches on. And on and on and on. Ten minutes. Twenty. Half an hour. I call home to say I'll be a little late. The 5-year-old announces he is bored. "Read the billboards," I tell him helpfully. He does! He's five, and just learning to read. I help him with the difficult words. Still idling. Waiting. I wonder what other drivers are doing in their cars. Some are scratching various body parts. Some are fiddling with their radios. Lots are jabbering on their cells. I have finished the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary and am starting on the Sorrowful. It's Lent! Praying is the perfect thing to do when you have time to kill on the I-4. I realize the type of slowdown I'm experiencing can be a typical commute for someone in a metropolis. I wonder what they do in their cars. You would think they'd all know foreign langauges by now, since there's plenty of time to learn one on tape. Ah, well, they're probably downloading new ring tones on their cells. Finally traffic begins to move a bit. The clot is starting to dissolve. Stupid Disney traffic! But then I notice something interesting. The traffic on the opposite side is now slowing. So something is affecting them as well. We inch closer. Finally we see a tow truck. A man is unwinching the winch. (I think.) And the vehicle. Well. First of all it's an SUV. And it is not in the preferred operating position. It is upside down. Yes. On its roof. Which is kind of smashed flat as a...not a pancake. Not quite that flat. I would say as flat as a full Grand Slam Denny's breakfast with a decent amount of bacon. In other words there is not as much headroom as advertised in the showroom model. Fortunately the passengers are long gone. (I mean that in the "probably transported by ambulance" sense. Not in the dearly departed sense. Although that could easily have been the result, based on the looks of this SUV.) So once we get to see this frightful sight, traffic of course immediately unclogs and we are on our merry way. For about 10 minutes. Until another slowdown occurs. Ack. This seems very unfair. Two big slowdowns in one trip. So more idling, inching. Got another Mystery of the Rosary finished. A small step toward world peace. The 5-year-old is begging me to go back the other way where there was less traffic. Haha. After another half hour of the Pokey Express we finally hit the cause of the next slowdown. It is ANOTHER upside down car with a partially pancaked roof. What the heck are these people doing? Rear-ending tractor trailers? Doughnuts in the median? Testing their rocket thrusters? Sheesh. It is always a bad sign when your car goes airborne. When I drive I try to pretend my van is a carton of eggs. Granted, sometimes it is a carton of eggs in a hurry, but generally I'm aware that I don't want even so much as a fender bender to harm the carton, and certainly nothing catastrophic that would scramble the eggs. Vans have a higher center of gravity than passenger cars, and so do SUVs. So puh-leeze. For the sake of everyone's driving sanity. Please keep the car ON the road. We don't need to be in such a hurry to get to an early grave.

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